HSBC Women’s Cham­pi­ons 2017

In­bee, Cham­pion of Cham­pi­ons once again

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - BY NATASHA WONG

South Korean In­bee Park marked her re­turn to the win­ner’s cir­cle with a re­sound­ing vic­tory at the 2017 HSBC Women’s Cham­pi­ons. Plagued by back and thumb in­juries in 2016, the for­mer world no. 1 and 7-time ma­jor win­ner, took a 6-month sab­bat­i­cal af­ter clinch­ing the Olympic gold medal in Au­gust. Com­pet­ing in just her sec­ond start, In­bee couldn't have picked a bet­ter way to her­ald her re­turn; vic­tory at an event widely con­sid­ered to be Asia’s ma­jor on the US LPGA Tour.

The 72-hole, no cut tour­na­ment

saw 63 of the world’s best fe­male golfers bat­tle it out at the re­cently re­con­structed New Tan­jong Course of the Sen­tosa Golf Club. At the start of the fi­nal round, the leader­board was stacked with no­table cham­pi­ons hov­er­ing within a few shots off the lead. Michelle Wie led the pack at 14-un­der par, while World No. 1 Ly­dia Ko, World No. 2 Ariya Ju­tanu­garn and big-hit­ting South Korean sen­sa­tion Sung Hyun Park stayed well poised for the pounce, just 2 shots back.

Wie got off to a fab­u­lous start with birdies on the 3rd and 4th holes, now five shots ahead of In­bee who had un­til then, been play­ing pedes­trian par golf. The par five 5th proved a turn­ing point in the tour­na­ment with Wie four-putting, and In­bee be­gin­ning her red hot streak – birdie, birdie, par, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, par and birdie – to go 19-un­der par af­ter 14 holes.

Turn­ing the cor­ner from her dis­ap­point­ing putting in ear­lier rounds, In­bee shared, “I think it's al­ways hard to make the first putts, and then af­ter, it gets eas­ier. Once you get the con­fi­dence go­ing, then you know, maybe by the third birdie, I just felt like it was in the hole. I had to wait for the mo­ment the whole time, and to­day was just that day, where I stand over the putt so con­fi­dent that I can draw a line di­rectly to the hole and it just goes ex­actly to the hole.”

Ariya, who won 5 times in her sopho­more LPGA sea­son in 2016,

proved she was worth ev­ery ounce of the hype play­ing near-flaw­less golf. The 21-year old man­aged 6 birdies and a bo­gey up to the 16th hole, with­out a driver in her bag. Now two shots back, with two holes to play, Ariya needed to play ag­gres­sively on the par three 17th for a chance at the cham­pi­onship ti­tle. With the pin tucked 3 yards and a fringe away from the wa­ter’s edge, Ariya hit a near-per­fect wedge shot, leav­ing her­self a very make­able 4-foot putt for birdie.

On Ariya’s po­ten­tially game-chang­ing wedge shot, In­bee said, “I told my­self, you can't worry about things that haven't hap­pened yet. I had cou­ple of strokes lead, and even if she makes that putt; and I don't make that putt, the worst case, it's a one-stroke lead go­ing into the last hole, which is not a bad place to be.”

In a steely dis­play of men­tal for­ti­tude, In­bee promptly played a safe shot to the cen­tre of the green, and then went on to drain a 25-foot putt for birdie.

The 28-year old reaf­firmed her sta­tus as a cham­pion of cham­pi­ons, clos­ing out with a com­fort­able sandy bo­gey on the fi­nal 18th hole to win by 1 stroke. No one had ever hoisted the tro­phy twice in the 10-year history of the tour­na­ment, un­til now. At the 2015 edi­tion of the event, In­bee won with an im­pres­sive bo­gey-free score of 15-un­der par when the tour­na­ment was played at the Ser­apong Course, Sen­tosa Golf Club.

In­bee Park kiss­ing the tro­phy

Ariya Ju­tanu­garn on the 17th

Sung Hyun Park dis­ap­pointed with a missed ea­gle op­por­tu­nity

Michelle Wie tee­ing it up

HWC cel­e­brates 10th An­niver­sary

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